There are many reasons why the Missouri Legislature should work diligently to pass a bill that would expand employment options for felons in the state.

There are many reasons why the Missouri Legislature should work diligently to pass a bill that would expand employment options for felons in the state.

A bi-partisan committee in the Missouri House has approved the legislation, which would broaden work opportunities for felons released from prison. As a Columbia attorney wrote, felons are pretty much limited to construction and fast food jobs — jobs in which they might be expendable or looked down upon. They are prohibited from holding jobs that involves selling alcohol or lottery tickets. The House Bill would strike that prohibition.

It’s easy to say felons shouldn’t have expanded work opportunities, but the opposite has plenty more benefits. Re-introduction to society for felons who served their punishment is difficult enough.

Often these people don’t have the skills necessary to pick up jobs right away. They are turned away easily and the “felon” label has detrimental effect on the person’s life forever — far longer than the range of punishment for a crime.

Felons should be encouraged to become productive members of society. They should feel valued and they should receive enough opportunities as they deserve. Without some level of support from the community, it’s easy to fall back into old patterns. Idle people, with too much time on their hands, sometimes resort to illegal activities. Broadening the scope of work opportunities helps keep felons busy.

A purposeful, stimulating job — or even a career — will more effectively help felons find meaning in life beyond prison. A person who finds value in life outside of prison will be far less likely to repeat negative behaviors, which reduces the rate of recidivism. That puts less of a financial burden on the corrections department. Felons who have been released have served their time. Further limitations (within reason) sometimes do more damage than good.

That’s why we support legislation expanded work options for these members of society. It’s the right thing to do. We urge the Missouri Legislature to push this legislation through to the finish line.